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Restaurants in the emerging COVID-19 hotspot of El Paso, Texas are plagued by conflicting mandates from state and local politicians on whether to stay open, underscoring the challenge businesses face across the country as the coronavirus It gallops across the US with renewed ferocity.

After shutting down completely for two months earlier this year, restaurants and bars are losing patience with the latest government orders they see as a threat to their livelihoods. At some establishments, that frustration turned into a challenge after El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Thursday ordered a two-week shutdown of all non-essential businesses to halt an increase in infections and hospitalizations in the area, which rose. more than 350% in October.

“We are boycotting, with the utmost respect due to healthcare workers and people affected by the virus,” local businessman Justin Kaufman said of his decision to keep his two gyms and five restaurants open. “We are on the brink of total collapse. Eight months is a long time to deal with this.”

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Entrepreneur Justin Kaufman visiting a California factory where energy drinks are made for his businesses.
JUSTIN KAUFMAN
For Kaufman, that meant closing their businesses for two months, except for alcohol to go, and then converting their drinking establishments so that more than half of the sales came from food sales, allowing them to initially reopen by half. of its capacity and then to 75%. The capacity figure dropped back to 50% about a month ago, and El Paso later ordered all restaurants to close at 9 p.m.

The impact on his businesses has been devastating.

The impact on their business has been devastating. Each of its bars and restaurants typically generated around $ 5,000 on Thursdays. Last week, they each made between $ 300 and $ 400 in sales, Kaufman told CBS on Monday.

“I’m trying not to let anyone go, that’s been the hardest thing,” Kaufman said of his 130 employees.

The government’s steps to curb the coronavirus “were not well planned from the beginning, in January, February and March, and apparently they are not yet,” said Leon Duran, vice president of the Texas Restaurant Association and owner of the L&J Cafe in Step. He cited an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott that declared the judge’s order “null, void, and unenforceable.”

Duran’s family-owned Mexican restaurant has weathered multiple financial storms over its 93-year history, including the Great Depression, and is determined to see it survive the pandemic.

Coronavirus: The Race To Respond

“We are probably the oldest restaurant in El Paso; my wife and I have run it for 32 years,” Duran told CBS MoneyWatch. His daughter is the fourth generation to join the family business.

After reopening in June, Duran brought back 40 employees from what had been a staff of 111, helped in part by a check protection loan, the federal program for small businesses affected by the pandemic.

“Whether we close or not, we are still facing mortgage payments” and refunds from the Small Business Administration and bank loans, Duran said.

Over the past two weeks, Duran’s restaurant has seen its take-out and curbside orders increase, while the number of customers served indoors has dropped as much as 20%.

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Vanessa, Leo and Frances Duran, owners of the L&J Cafe, El Paso, Texas.
LEO DURAN
Both Duran and Kaufman voiced alarm at the deadly impact of COVID-19 and said they are investing time and money to ensure their businesses are safe for workers and customers.

“We are struggling financially, yes, but again, based on where we think this is going in the future, we will install a heating and cooling system to purify the air,” Duran said.

I would like the authorities to differentiate between companies that apply masks and other security mandates and those that don’t. “There are some bad players, more concerned with their civil rights, freedoms and the pursuit of happiness, I guess,” he said of companies and individuals willing to ignore known steps to reduce the spread of the virus.

Kaufman is frustrated that the official stance seems to focus on threatening businesses with fines rather than educating restaurants on what they can do to make their establishments safer. He recently learned of a $ 49,000 grant from the federal government’s Build Safe program being distributed by the states, which he plans to use to install airflow systems and Plexiglass barriers between waiters and customers.

Medical Examiner’s Office parking lot so that we can get a 3rd mobile morgue unit.

The county is currently working to create more space in the medical examiner’s office parking lot so we can get a third mobile morgue unit. If that doesn’t put our situation in perspective, I don’t know what will. https://t.co/aSDHJfDx6S

– County Judge Ricardo Samaniego (@EPCountyJudge) October 31, 2020
“It’s going to sound absolutely ridiculous, but it’s something that has to happen,” Kaufman said. “I don’t care what my business is like, I just want you to be safe.”

As of Monday, El Paso health officials had reported more than 51,500 confirmed cases and 605 deaths related to the coronavirus. The count includes nearly 1,000 people who are hospitalized, more than a quarter in intensive care.

On Saturday, Samaniego, the El Paso judge, noted a grim development in an attempt to “put our situation in perspective,” tweeting that the county was creating more space for a third mobile morgue unit. By Sunday afternoon, he had already told a local news outlet that the country’s medical examiner’s office was receiving a fourth refrigerated mobile morgue to help it deal with its backlog.

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IbrarHussain

Ibrar Hussain is the USA Today Bestselling author of 6 novels, including The Dig, A Warm Place to Call Home (a demon’s story), and Exigency. He lives in Northern California with “the wife,” “the kids,” “the dog,” “that cat,” and he occasionally wears pants. His latest release, RETURN, is the third book in his #1 bestselling Matt Turner series.

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